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The actually non-poisonous yarrow (Achillea) with its numerous subspecies belongs to the daisy family and should therefore be treated with a little caution, even for sensitive people. The far greater danger, however, is that similar plants are regularly confused with the popular medicinal plant.

The poisonous giant hogweed looks very similar to yarrow

Concrete dangers due to the likelihood of confusion with yarrow

A confusion with the so-called meadow smock is still relatively harmless, since this is also one of the edible herbs. The situation is different if, instead of yarrow, a poisonous double such as the spotted hemlock or the giant hogweed from the Caucasus is cut for use in the kitchen, as a medicinal plant or for dried bouquets. After all, these two plants can lead to serious health problems, not only when accidentally consumed. The mere touch is often enough to cause extremely unpleasant burn blisters to form on the skin.

The spotted hemlock

With a growth height of up to two meters, the spotted hemlock (Conium maculatum) is actually significantly higher than the yarrow. However, there is still a risk of confusion with younger specimens of the plant that have not yet reached their full height. Spotted hemlock can be identified by the reddish spots on the stems. In addition, the plant spreads a pungent odor that is unpleasant for humans and is vaguely reminiscent of mouse urine. The possible complaints when eating plant parts are due to the alkaloids they contain:

  • difficulties swallowing
  • burning in the mouth
  • nerve paralysis and respiratory arrest

The Giant Bear Claw

Another extremely poisonous doppelganger with a concrete risk of confusion when collecting yarrow is the giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum). It was introduced from the Caucasus region and has spread widely in many natural landscapes. Even more than with the spotted hemlock, mere skin contact means danger with this plant. Although the giant hogweed differs significantly from the yarrow because of its leaves, it sometimes appears similar to children because of the white umbel flowers. Touching the plant with bare hands can cause burns that can last for weeks and are worsened by exposure to the sun.


In order to recognize the yarrow without a doubt, you should take a close look at the pictures and, if possible, have an expert show you in nature. In general, in the garden and on excursions into nature with children, the motto is that unknown or unidentifiable plants should not be touched and certainly not eaten.

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